No other independent brand stands out more from the watchmaking industry than Ressence. The company has been around for less than a decade, yet in that short period of time the brand has carved a niche for itself in the luxury watch market and has managed to build a serious collector base.
The brainchild of industrial designer Benoit Mintiens, the brand has the feel of a tech company and the products’ design reflect that impression. The watches look like they came straight out of Silicon Valley rather than from the Canton of Neuchâtel but don’t let it fool you as Ressence was certified in 2016, by the Cultural Council of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, to meet Haute Horlogerie standards of excellence.
Since its creation, Ressence has set its eyes on innovation. All the timepieces from the brand feature the distinctive and patented Ressence Orbital Convex System (ROCS) which are co-planar discs of different sizes all revolving at the same time around the dial. The largest white hand indicates the minutes on the outer track while the hours are displayed in their own disc, and two sub-dials indicate the seconds and day of the week. It does take you by surprise the first time you handle one of their watches but it then becomes mesmerizing and a pure joy to look at. Ressence innovated as well with the winding and setting mechanism by getting rid of the traditional crown and incorporating the crown’s functions into the caseback. If that wasn’t enough, the brand blew everyone’s mind by filling some of their watches with oil which “projects” all the dial information up to the sapphire crystal.
This year, at SIHH 2018, Ressence walked into the room with another innovation and flanked by none other than Mr iPod himself, Tony Fadell. Together they presented the Ressence Type 2 e-Crown Concept watch. e-Crown stands for electronic crown and is basically an automated setting technology for mechanical watches. The module, which contains the e-Crown technology, sits in between the brand’s patented ROCS display and the mechanical movement of the timepiece, meaning that it does not interfere with the gear train from the barrel to the hands.
Once you have set the time on your watch using the usual caseback setting technique, e-Crown will monitor the time on the watch daily so that if the power of the watch winds down, it will go into sleep mode and set the correct time again once you wake it back up. No need to set the watch yourself ever again and the e-Crown technology is also able to register and display multiple time zones via a smartphone app. Adding a bit of interaction with the watch, the e-Crown system is activated and controlled by tapping on the glass of the watch.
Now obviously all this new technology needs power and to address that point e-Crown uses the normal kinetic energy provided by the daily movement of the wrist, but when needed, 10 little flaps on the dial will open to reveal photovoltaic cells underneath. These cells will harness energy from any available outside light to power the module. In other words, the e-Crown system is self-sufficient.
Overall, this e-Crown technology is interesting on so many levels and reflects the will of the brand to bring watchmaking into the 21st Century. Can you imagine a life where you can wear and enjoy your mechanical watch, put it down for a few days while you enjoy other pieces in your collection, and then pick it up again with the watch setting the correct time for you?
Obviously this technology is not for everyone, many purists will scoff at the e-Crown saying that it dilutes the points of owning a mechanical watch and interacting with it when you need to adjust, reset or change the time. This is why the industry is so wide and why there is a watch for everyone in this business, but to stand out or reach new customers brands have to find ways to innovate and I believe that Ressence’s e-Crown innovation is something that we might see more and more of in the future.
The Ressence Type 2 e-Crown Concept watch was only presented as a prototype and a production version of the Type 2 was announced but with no official launch date. After checking their Instagram page, it seems like the brand is going to have more to share about the Type 2 during SIHH 2019 and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us.